Motorcycles and swimming are forms of meditation that are more closely related than you might, at first, think.
I’m very fond of both, and have only recently realized how much they truly have in common.
When you ride a motorcycle, you become gloriously single-minded. You can’t be distracted, because if you become distracted, you could actually die. No mere hyperbole, this. One split-second when you’re not entirely focused on both your behavior and that of the traffic around you, and you’re toast. Period.
All your attention goes toward piloting your bike through traffic. Some part of your brain may file away pertinent details about other vehicles or situations on the road that you encounter, but that’s all via your subconscious thought processes. Your conscious thought processes remain solely fixed on effectively strategizing your way through traffic. How can you avoid that dude over there on his cell phone, who clearly isn’t paying attention to traffic? How can you get around that lady who apparently doesn’t believe in turn signals? Your brain and eyes race ahead of your current position, planning everything out and leaving as little as possible to chance.
Of course, you’re never fully in control of everything. You can’t control other people. But the sooner you recognize what’s going on, and what potential hazards are up ahead, the sooner you can avoid them. That’s what the Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes teach you. It’s important to note that in the real world, hammering that simple fact home in your brain will keep you riding safely for years and years to come.
Swimming starts differently, but ends up the same way. At least, it does for me. You see, swimming is a highly technical activity. While I’m sure there are always things I could improve about my preferred strokes, the upshot is that you focus so closely on how your body is moving and proper breathing that you don’t have time to think about anything else.
I’m not talking about merely floating or meandering along purposelessly. Those are fine things, to be sure — just not my focus. When I swim, I swim because it’s my preferred form of exercise. It’s one of the few things that makes me feel more stretched out and relaxed after I’m done — an important fact, given my family’s history of degenerative arthritic issues.
In both cases, your cares of the day melt away, and you simply live in the moment. On your bike, you’re constantly analyzing and assessing each new variable that comes your way. In the water, you’re constantly assessing your breathing, timing it with your strokes, and pulling yourself through the water. Will you make it to the other side of the pool in 10 strokes? 15? 20? Are you getting tired? Do you need to take a break before your next lap, or can you push through the fatigue?
In both cases, you’ve shut all other distractions out of your brain. In both cases, you’re content to just simply be.
Or, perhaps, more than content. I think you are. I know I am.
When I come out of either situation, I feel mentally refreshed. I may feel physically fatigued, depending on how long I’ve been doing either activity. But physical fatigue is easily cured with some sleep. Mental fatigue, as I’m sure you well know, takes further effort to cure. In some cases, it may take a significantly greater effort than mere sleep can provide.
I don’t think I’m overstating my case when I say, in both instances, that my brain feels like it’s being reset.
It’s really just a giant rhythm game. Lose yourself in it, and your mind relaxes as it calculates its next move.
Of course, this is just my personal experience. Yours may be entirely different, as you’re wired entirely differently from me.
What’s your mental reset button? How did you find it? Do you have more than one?